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Home Blog Popcorn Parent Movie Reviews Movie Review: Warrior (PG-13)

Movie Review: Warrior (PG-13)

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Length: 140 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Age Appropriate for: 14+. Language, drinking, some traumatic stuff from the war in Iraq and, of course, fighting. The fight scenes in the film are nauseating mainly because of rapid cuts and careening camerawork, but the punches and kicks sound worse than the pain they seem to inflict on the characters. If you’ve ever seen a real mixed martial arts bout, you know what the film presents is a laughably sugar-coated take; the sport is far more dangerous than what the film presents.

‘Warrior’ is too long, too self-serious and too melodramatic to be more than a glorified ‘Rocky’ rip-off with an unnecessarily patriotic subplot. And yet, here’s another notch in Tom Hardy’s and Joel Edgerton’s underrated belts: As brothers destined to fight, the two actors bring brawn to this otherwise tepid film.

By Roxana Hadadi

The whole time I was watching the 140-minute long “Warrior,” I was thinking three things: First, that Tom Hardy is distractingly muscled yet simultaneously really good-looking, just like he was in “Inception.” Second, that Joel Edgerton is a fine choice to play the nauseatingly self-centered Tom Buchanan in Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming adaptation of our best American novel, “The Great Gatsby,” way better than Ben Affleck, who was originally rumored for the role. And lastly, that sadly for Hardy and Edgerton both, “Warrior” is kind of terrible.

A family drama dressed up in the shorts of a mixed martial arts, or MMA, fighter, “Warrior” is the kind of movie that preys on all our societal ideas about masculinity: That a man is worthless unless he provides for his family, but that a man can’t choose a woman over a friendship or bond with a male friend or sibling, and that lessons learned through violence and fighting are more important than those learned through, you know, talking. Through protagonists and brothers Tommy (Hardy) and Brendan (Edgerton) and their father Paddy (Nick Nolte), director and co-writer Gavin O’Connor gives us a film about some blue-collar guys struggling to make it in a world where everything is seemingly working to deny them of true greatness. If that sounds familiar to you, then I guess you saw “The Fighter,” a better movie than this one.

Yes, the release of “Warrior” was delayed for months to wipe audiences’ memories of “The Fighter,” which garnered Christian Bale his first Academy Award earlier this year, but it would be unfair to say “Warrior” is completely without its own merits. And basically those merits are Hardy and Edgerton, who take this two-kernel movie to three with their performances. As Tommy, Hardy is a haunting menace, the kind of person who would sacrifice his life for another but then never talk about it. He’s also the sort of guy who wouldn’t hesitate to punch you in the face if you’ve wronged him, and that punch would probably hurt like hell.

Standing in the other side of the octagon — ha! MMA reference! — is Edgerton as Brendan, the older brother who stayed with alcoholic father Paddy when his mother moved out with Tommy. While Tommy watched his mother die of cancer, later joined the Marines and served in Iraq, Brendan got married to high school sweetheart Tess (Jennifer Morrison), had two daughters and became a high school teacher. Tommy and Brendan are both emotional beings, but whereas the former is driven by rage and resentment, the latter is inspired by a need to keep his family afloat, to provide for his daughters in the way Paddy never could for his own sonrs. Think of it like this: Tommy is that Nine Inch Nails song “Hurt,” about the need to self-harm to reinforce that you’re still alive. Brendan is more like “My Hometown” by Bruce Springsteen, a recognition of the changing world around him and how he needs to adapt to survive. (Both NIN and the Boss are better than this movie, by the way).

O’Connor establishes a separate narrative for each brother — building up the tension so their eventual meeting at a MMA competition would be more emotional weighty — and so for the first hour or so, each man gets his own story. They both need to fight to make a living, but their paths aren’t the same.

Tommy, mysteriously back from Iraq, goes to see Paddy — nearing his thousandth sober day — to ask him to help him train to fight again. As a teen, Paddy coached Tommy at the Junior Olympics in wrestling, but Tommy makes it clear that he doesn’t “want to hear a word about anything but training.” Their relationship is not one his son is looking to fix. A few towns away, Brendan — facing foreclosure and struggling to pay off one of his daughter’s medical bills — decides to return to fighting on the side to make some extra cash. But when he gets fired from his teaching job for winning a low-level MMA bout, he has to scramble to become fully competitive again to keep food on the table for his wife and kids.

Through a series of events that lasts nearly two more hours (sigh), Tommy and Brendan work their way toward each other and a family face-off that’s been years in the making. Scenes with the two of them dancing around each other’s fears and expectations provide the film’s emotional backbone — as does a searing performance from Nolte, who goes full-on unhinged at a crucial point, aided by “Moby Dick” on audiotape — but the film takes too long to get there, spending extraneous time on elements that just don’t matter that much. Brendan’s students love him? Great. Tommy earns the admiration of local fighters? Awesome. In a way, “Warrior” has almost too much character development, too many attempts by O’Connor to make these guys seem like real people struggling with real problems. When he ropes Marines, veterans and a mind-numbingly simple description of heroism and patriotism into the mix, it just comes off as pandering.

But Hardy, Edgerton and Nolte bring enough dude tears and body slams to make the film about more than O’Connor’s drawn-out narrative. The fighting is unrealistic, of course — if you know how MMA works, you’re aware that it’s pretty much impossible to put on a Grand Prix-style competition as described in the film, and real-life fights are more brutal than the glossy bouts depicted in “Warrior.” Keeping the sugar-coating off the film’s three main men, however, works in O’Connor’s favor: “Warrior” may be a bunch of clichés, but Hardy, Edgerton and Nolte give it a fighting chance.

 

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